Wood gets long-awaited Saints start in Dragons clash

Tom Wood will start for Saints at Rodney Parade (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Tom Wood will start for Saints at Rodney Parade (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Tom Wood will make his first Saints start for more than seven months as Chris Boyd's men travel to Newport to face the Dragons on Friday night (kick-off 7.30pm).

Wood was plagued with a pubis symphysis problem, which at one point left him unable to walk, after the defeat to Sale Sharks at Franklin's Gardens back in March.

It meant the flanker was unable to play any part in the final flings of last season and missed the entirety of pre-season.

He finally returned to action in a Wanderers game against London Irish last month and made his first-team comeback off the bench against Leicester at Twickenham.

He only got five minutes in the defeat to the Tigers, but he will expect to get significantly more than that at Rodney Parade as he joins Jamie Gibson and Teimana Harrison in the back row.

Saints have opted to shake things up after last Saturday's 41-20 defeat to Clermont Auvergne in the Challenge Cup opener at the Gardens.

Harry Mallinder is ruled out with a knee injury, meaning Ahsee Tuala moves to full-back with Taqele Naiyaravoro, who was rested last weekend, returning on the wing.

Alex Mitchell gets his first Saints start as he comes in for Cobus Reinach at scrum-half, while hooker Dylan Hartley is rested, meaning Mike Haywood comes into the starting 15.

James Fish, who scored a hat-trick in a 42-10 pre-season win at the Dragons in August, returns from injury to take Haywood's place on the bench.

Alex Waller captains the team in the Challenge Cup clash, with Ben Franks and Courtney Lawes both starting as they replace Ehren Painter and Dom Barrow respectively.

Captain Cory Hill will make his 100th appearance for the Dragons as he is recalled in the second row for Friday's game.

Head coach Bernard Jackman makes five changes to the side that claimed a bonus point 54-17 win in Romania against Timisoara Saracens last weekend.

Aaron Wainwright, this week named by Warren Gatland in the Wales’ squad for the autumn internationals, returns in the back row.

Jordan Williams is named at full-back while wing Jared Rosser is fit to take his place on the wing.

The final change sees Rhodri Williams return at scrum-half.

Dragons: J Williams; Kirchner, Morgan, Sage, Rosser; Lewis, R Williams; Harris, Dee, Brown; Evans, Hill (c); Wainwright, Griffiths, Moriarty.
Replacements: Hibbard, Jarvis, Fairbrother, Screech, Taylor, Davies, Warren, Talbot-Davies.

Saints: Tuala; Collins, Kellaway, Francis, Naiyaravoro; Biggar, Mitchell; Waller (c), Haywood, Franks; Ribbans, Lawes; Gibson, Wood, Harrison.
Replacements: Fish, van Wyk, Painter, Barrow, Ludlam, Reinach, Grayson, Burrell.